A cruise on the highway to Jasper is a pretty regular thing for Canadians to do. Vehicles stopped dead on the highway are not normal. Neither is your radio spontaneously turning on then playing distorted chanting. What’s with the random lighting too? Red Then White is this month’s flash fiction explores the paranormal. Experience the story either through audio or through reading.
Red Then White
By Konn Lavery
The sound of tapping glass accompanied the constant humming of the SUV that glided down the pitch-black roads below the star-filled sky. Thin, elegant fingers moved rapidly against the lit glass, showcasing a keyboard interface. The fingers were carefully angled so the long, monster-green finger nails didn’t hit the screen.
The driver kept both hands on the wheel, keeping focused on what little could be seen in the darkness. The vehicle’s high beams provided some visuals of the road, but truthfully if something were to jump out on the side of the road, the vehicle couldn’t stop in time, not at these speeds.
“I hate night time driving,” the driver said as he used one hand to stroke his neck as a flash of lightning briefly lit up the night view.
The passenger to his right stopped typing and brushed her blonde hair aside. “Yeah Craig, I know. We don’t have that much longer.”
The man let out a sigh. “I can’t believe your boss didn’t give you the day off. We’ll be driving most of the night.”
“No, really it will be fine. We only have a few more hours left. We’ll be in Jasper in no time.”
“The welcome party will be long over by the time we get there. You know that.”
The girl continued tapping away on her phone. “I’m just making a post on the event page right now. Besides, we’ll have all day tomorrow to catch up with everyone.”
“I get that, it’s just that these reunions don’t happen every year, you know?”
The girl finished typing on her smartphone and pressed the send button. She looked up to the road ahead, it was filled with upward hills leading straight west. Two red lights were viewable further up the road.
“You sure we’re still on highway sixteen?” the girl asked.
The man nodded. “Yeah, it is the main road leading to Jasper. Driving in a straight line is pretty simple when you think about it.”
“Just checking.” The girl folded her arms. “No need to get snarky.”
The SUV was going about five kilometers over the speed limit. This late at night, the highway was crawling with Peace Officers just looking for someone to misbehave. Even five over was living on the edge. Plus, it was dark, and it was better to be safe than sorry.
The radio lit up as a fuzzy, noise came through the speakers sounding, “YUK-YUK-YUK-ACH-ACH-UCK.” What sounded like screams shortly followed. Truthfully it all sounded like noise from the distortion.
“What are you playing?” the girl asked while reaching for the radio.
“I didn’t turn on anything,” Craig said. “Probably picking up a bad signal. It’s a cheap radio.”
The girl pressed the power button, causing the sound to shut off. “It’s super annoying,” she said.
The two remained in silence for what seemed like ten minutes, when in actuality it was only a few. Time had a funny way of doing that on road trips. As they drove, the red rear lights of the vehicle ahead rapidly grew lager.
“That car is going pretty damn slow,” Craig said.
The girl looked up from her phone and squinted. “How fast are you going?”
The man double checked the speedometer, it was still hovering at 115. “Five over.”
“Who knows. Maybe the night has him more spooked than it does you.”
Before the man could reply, the distance between them and the car diminished drastically.
“Christ!” Craig shouted while swerving into the opposite lane, missing the parked car by a few meters.
“Holy shit.” The girl put her hand on her chest. “What was he doing, stopped right in lane? He should pull to the side.”
“I don’t know,” Craig said.
“Should we call it in? Maybe they’re having a heart attack.”
“No, they’re just stupid. Let’s keep driving.”
A flash of light burst from the sky, lighting up the roadway. Craig pointed over to the right side of the road where a white sign was now in view from the car’s high beams, it stated: ALBERTA 16 with the numbers inside a shield
“See Hannah, we’re still on the right road.” Craig said.
Hannah folded her arms. “It just doesn’t look familiar this late at night.”
“Yeah, nothing does at this hour,” the man said while adjusting the wheel as they came up on a slight turn. A second vehicle came into view. The red rear lights increased in size at an accelerating rate.
“Another one?” Hannah asked.
“I guess?” The man said as he brought the wheel back to the middle, congruent with the now straight road.
The radio flickered on with a distorted, “YUK-ACH-ACH-UCK… No!”.
Hannah reached for the radio, shutting it off. “What is wrong with this?” she asked.
Craig didn’t reply, he was focused on the lights of the new vehicle that continually grew larger – the vehicle wasn’t moving.
“Craig, move over, we’re going to hit him.” Hannah said.
“I am.” Craig squinted, seeing that the red lights were perfectly in line with the middle of the road. “He’s…”
“He’s what, Craig?”
“He’s in the middle of the road.” Craig said while pressing his big toe on the brakes of the vehicle.
“Move into the shoulder lane and get around him. This is beginning to creep me out.”
“Yeah me too.” Craig gradually moved the vehicle off to the right, continually pressing on the brakes to bring the vehicle down to fifty kilometers. “See if you can take a look.” Craig said while he moved half-way onto the shoulder lane. The vehicle vibrated as the right-side tires drove on the rippled pavement of the shoulder lane.
The girl sat straight up and looked out through Craig’s window.
“What do you see?” Craig said, glancing at the stopped car as they drove by. He wasn’t able to take a good look and returned to the road, tightly gripping the wheel.
“Nothing,” she said.
“No one, the vehicle was empty.”
“It can’t be. It was probably just too dark.”
“No, I am telling you, there was no one in that car.”
Craig looked directly into Hannah’s hazelnut eyes for just over a second before returning to the road. She kept her gaze on him.
She’s serious, he thought. She never kept her gaze for long unless she was certain.
“Can we stop? just pull over for a moment.”
“Why?” Craig asked.
“Craig! There’s two cars stopped in the road, one of which I know no one was in. How can that be? I just need a damn smoke.”
Craig was about to reply but stopped himself. His first instinct was to tell her that they weren’t sure that someone wasn’t in the vehicle. Someone had to be, right? It didn’t matter though. Hannah did not enjoy being challenged when she was convinced she was right. He would never hear the end of it.
“Fine,” Craig groaned while slowing the vehicle down, causing the vibrations to lessen. “Call the cops. Or have a smoke. Whatever it is.” He pressed the flashers button as he slowed it down to a stop. He put the vehicle into park and leaned back into the driver’s seat.
“Well?” Craig asked. “Let’s hurry, I’d like to make it to Jasper and call it a day.”
“Just a quick dart, okay?” Hannah said, reaching into her purse with one hand.
“Yeah cool. I’ll wait here.” He folded his arms. I wish she’d stop smoking. He wanted to argue with her but there really wasn’t much of a point. Smoking was the same as any situation, when she was set on something, it didn’t change.
“Great.” Hannah undid her seatbelt and opened the door with one hand. With her free hand she flicked the lighter and brought it to the cigarette that was now in her mouth. She closed the door to the SUV and stepped out of view.
Craig fiddled with his thumbs and looked out the side view mirror, then the rear mirror to see if he could spot Hannah – she was out of view. He let out a sigh and looked down at his shoes, then to the clock on the dashboard, stating it was 11:15 P.M. Basically anything that would pass the time while Hannah inhaled a mouth full of cancer.
Craig looked at the clock again, it was now 11:19 P.M.
Okay, that’s enough. Craig unbuckled his seatbelt and opened his door, stepping out into the cool spring air. He rubbed his arms, causing the windbreaker to make squeaky noises.
Damn Gore-Tex, always sounds like a kid’s jumpsuit. Craig thought while closing the door shut. “Hannah?” He said while walking around the front of the vehicle. She wasn’t anywhere in the front, she had to be by the rear passenger side if he couldn’t see her from inside.
Craig put his hands in his pocket and walked around the vehicle to the passenger side. “Hannah?”
A thumping noise caused the vehicle to shake as a sudden flash of light flickered directly above the vehicle. The whole scene lit up bright white momentarily and vanished, causing Craig to jump back.
“Hannah?” He called out again.
Craig ran around the vehicle to the back, no sign of Hannah.
Where did she go? He glanced back to the side of the road, leading into the forestry, it was pitch black, impossible to see.
“Hannah?” Craig shouted.
He ran around the driver’s side of the vehicle, only to find nothing. The blonde was nowhere to be found. The subtle sound of “YUK-YUK-YUK-ACH-ACH-UCK,” came from inside the vehicle. Craig looked over to see that the radio lights were on as screams roared through the radio speaker.
“Hannah!” Craig shouted again while running to the back of the vehicle, looking into the forestry.
Did someone grab her? Did she run? What is with that radio? Craig thought. His internal chatter was running a million questions through his mind with no resolutions.
A burst of light flashed, causing Craig to grunt as an immense force pulled him off the ground. The pressure felt like a vacuum hose sucking him up, stretching his skin upward. His eyelids and lips were pulled upward. The light vanished, leaving him in pure darkness, skin reverting to normal. The light flashed again, revealing the road as a small line below, with acers of forestry around him.
“Hannah!” Craig screamed as his skin stretched again. The light continually got brighter, blinding him as the haunting voices from the radio began to chant, “YUK-YUK…”